California Road Trip in April

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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:23 AM
  #1
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California Road Trip in April

My husband and I are looking to book tickets to California for his spring break in April (he teaches). We would be able to leave on Saturday morning and come back the following Sunday. The priorities for this trip are:
-Two days in LA. I grew up here and would love to show my husband around my old stomping grounds. We definately do not need to see any of the touristy attractions. This is more for nostalgic purposes. We have family in Santa Monica so would probably base ourselves in that area.
-A few days in the Napa Valley/Sonoma area. Neither of us have ever been and we would love to spend two or three days relaxing and touring vineyards.
-One day at the end of our trip in San Fran before we fly home. We only need one day as we have both been to San Fran many times.
-A road trip up the coast in between LA and Napa, stopping for one or two nights, to see Big Sur and maybe Monterey area. This is the the trickiest part for me. I know you could easily spend a week driving up the coast at a leisurely pace with multiple stops. However, we obviously don;t have the time to do that. Do you advise doing this drive with one overnight stop?

Our proposed itinerary:
Sat: Fly into LAX in the morning.
Sun: LA
Mon: Leave LA in the morning, drive up the coast stopping somwhere for the night.
Tues: Finish the drive up the coast, arriving in Napa.
Wed: Napa/Sonoma
Thurs: Napa/Sonoma
Fri: Napa/Sonoma
Sat: San Fran
Sun: Fly Home.

Feel free to critique and tell me this is crazy. Thanks!
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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:27 AM
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It's a lot of driving, but the only thing I would recommend changing is Tuesday - I'd drive only as far as Monterey/Carmel/Pacific Grove, and finish the drive to Napa or Sonoma on Wednesday. That way, you wouldn't be in a rush driving up the coast.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:37 AM
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Thanks! That makes alot more sense. Where would you recommend stopping on Monday?
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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:57 AM
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I would recommend Cambria - it's a charming little seaside town - shops and restaurants - and it's quite close to San Simeon, which is where Hearst Castle is located, should you want to take a tour (the only way you can visit the house itself).
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Jan 9th, 2013, 11:37 AM
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I agree with sf, also note that there are other wineries in California that you will be near, such as Santa Ynez Valley, inland and north of Santa Barbara, Paso Robles area just a few miles inland from Cambria, also San Luis Obispo area, most of those would be less pricey and crowded than Napa/Sonoma.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 12:52 PM
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Just above Santa Barbara - west of the Danish themed town of Solvang (which is in the Santa Ynez Valley/area) - are the Santa Rita Hills - a nice appellation for both Pinot and Chardonnay.

Also - in Solvang are several good tasting rooms/retailers. You could visit some wineries/tasting rooms http://www.solvangusa.com/explore-so...tasting-rooms/ and stay the night.

You might watch the movie Sideways for a little more info. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375063/

The next day - continue on to say Hearst Castle for a late morning tour - and then finish driving through beautiful Big Sur into Carmel/Monterrey.

Hey - taking an extra day on the Coast ain't all bad.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Or - head inland from Cambria to one of the B & B's at the wineries along route 46 - toward Paso Robles. http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/p...ineries-2.html

Our nephew spent his honeymoon at Justin Vinyard - and they loved it. http://www.justinwine.com/
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Jan 9th, 2013, 01:07 PM
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Change of pace, but there are also a number of emerging wineries in the Gold Rush country (Sierra foothills), and that area is seriously beautiful in the spring - lots of historic towns and back roads.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 01:33 PM
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Oooh thanks for all the tips! I will have to research all of these places. I remember loving the Santa Barbara area as a kid.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 02:04 PM
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Let's see - you are leaving LA on Monday morning and might encounter horrible rush hour traffic. Then you might see more rush hour traffic as you near San Jose, San Francisco, and maybe even Santa Rosa. Your Mon & Tuesday schedule will consume a lot more sitting-in-the-car time than you think.

This is just my opinion, but for a first-timer in very early April, I think you might find the Big Sur coast, Hearst Castle, Big Sur (Nepenthe), Pt Lobos, and Carmel/Monterey a lot more interesting than the Napa Valley. And a lot less time in the car also. You want to do the Big Sur coast SLOWLY.

I would visit the wineries in Paso Robles, and end the trip in San Francisco without going to the Napa Valley.

Here are some SF Bay Area ideas:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...mendations.cfm

Stu Dudley
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Jan 9th, 2013, 02:22 PM
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I agree with the other posters regarding skipping Napa/Sonoma. Both the Santa Ynez area and Paso Robles are well with visting and will fit in better with your time frame. From Santa Barbara to Monterey County are tons of vineyards and wineries to visit.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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Just to be clear - I for one wasn't suggesting skipping Napa/Sonomaa but rather perhaps allocating another day to the drive up the Coast and taking in a winery or two on the way.

As for leaving LA on a Monday morning - coffee up and get out at Oh Dark thirty and beat the rush hour traffic (enjoy a Danish pastry in Solvang for breakfast?) - or have a nice breakfast and head out after it's over - say 9 AM or so.

And from the Carmel area - you can cut over to the Napa area and mostly avoid the heavy Bay Area traffic (early on a Wed afternoon? http://www.distancebetweencities.net...armel_ca/route ) - and driving into the city from there is fine on on a Saturday am - couple hours or so.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 02:55 PM
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Do a little research on the Amtrak Coast Starlight (14) from LAX to Santa Barbara to avoid the Monday morning traffic. Rent you car in SB or take the city bus out to the the airport to rent your car.
You get the chance to look at the Pacific ocean all morning without driving. You also get to have a late lunch in Santa Barbara before heading north as far as you wish.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 05:53 PM
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@StuDudley, thanks for your advice. I have been to Monterrey, Big Sur and Hearst Castle, but have never taken the time to explore the Napa area which is why I was so interested in that. Would you all really suggest spending time in the Santa Ynez vineyards over Napa/Sonoma? Why? Is Napa/Sonoma overrated or is it just because it would fit in better with our itinerary? Thanks!
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Jan 9th, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Also, @StuDudley, I really enjoyed browsing through your guide that you posted, will have to read it thouroughly. Thanks!
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Jan 10th, 2013, 03:41 AM
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BTW - not all of us recommended the Santa Rita Hills/Santa Ynez Valley over Napa. I think it's a nice area to explore/enjoy - but Napa is still King.

Napa has gotten more congested and expensive over the years - but it is still THE wine area for California.

Personally - I/we prefer the cute little town square of Sonoma as a base - and everything is stil within an hour or so drive from there.
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Jan 10th, 2013, 03:49 AM
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Here's a bit more info on the Napa v. Sonoma choice of where to visit - and if you are going to visit a number of wineries - you might consider some kind of shuttle.

This one also has some good background info: http://www.blueherontours.com/newsletter.asp?number=21

and http://www.yelp.com/topic/san-franci...les-to-from-sf
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Jan 10th, 2013, 08:28 AM
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Napa/Sonoma is beautiful and not overrated. I think the other ares were suggested because they would work into your itinerary better and save you the long drive up to N. Cal. If you visited Santa Ynez, you could slow it down and then go in and out of LA. If you have your heart set on Napa, then go for it, or save N. Cal for another trip. In April, the hills will be green, but the grapes will just be waking up and doing their bud break.
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Jan 10th, 2013, 08:49 AM
  #19
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Hi all, I really do have my heart set on the north and I have always wanted to do the road trip along the coast, but I don't feel the need to stop and see everything because I did this trip many times as a kid. I am thinking it would be wiser to start our trip up north and work our way south, saving LA for last since this is the most flexible part of our trip. (We would be staying with family so won't have to worry about hotel reservations and if our time in LA gets cut short it won't be that big of a deal) Here is my revised itinerary:

Day 1 (Sat): Fly into San Francisco, get an early flight.
Day 2 (Sun): Either stay in San Fran today or head out to Sonoma. This will depend on what we want to do in SF as we have already been here before and won't need to cross anything off a checklist.
Day 3 (Mon): Base ourselves in Sonoma and spend time touring Sonoma/Napa area.
Day 4 (Tues): Sonoma
Day 5 (Wed): Start road trip down coast, visit Monterrey and stay somewhere along Big Sur overnight.
Day 6 (Thurs): Flexible day, either drive the rest of the way to LA or stop somewhere overnight before finishing the trip. I haven't worked out exactly what we will want to see on the drive down. So far, from your suggestions, I am considering Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and Paso Robles.
Day 7 (Fri): LA
Day 8 (Sat): LA
Day 9 (Sun): Fly Home.

What do you think?
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Jan 10th, 2013, 09:47 AM
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I think that's excellent, although I'd probably plan to sleep in the Monterey area on Day 5, and head down the coast starting the next morning!

Here's a link to a day-trip we took a couple of years ago, starting just south of SFO and ending in the Big Sur area (and returning the same day):

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...art-way.cfm?38
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